Sam King: When I talk to people about our plans for the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste, one question I often hear is: what’s wrong with the way we handle the waste now? It’s a fair question. There are stores of radioactive waste at various secure sites around England, Scotland and Wales. Thanks to specialised storage facilities, the waste is safe and secure where it is right now, and the nearby communities are safe from it. If the current system isn’t broken, why change it? The short answer is that the current arrangements are a good solution for now, but we need a solution for the long term. Some types of radioactive waste will stay hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years, and existing storage facilities won’t last that long. Radioactive waste is packaged to contain its radiation and make it safer to store, but the packaging isn’t indestructible. If we kept treating the waste exactly as we do now, then in about 100 years or so, we would start to see corrosion on the surface of some packages. The packages would need to be replaced, and, in time, the storage facilities themselves would eventually need to be replaced as well. This approach and the work involved creates cost and risk to people and the environment. Essentially, carrying on as we are means forcing future generations to shoulder the costs and the hazards of taking care of our waste. The UK’s been creating radioactive waste since before I was born, so it’s already been handed down from one generation to the next. We have a duty and a responsibility to future generations to break that chain.
NDA 25th June 2020 read more »